"The Matrix: Resurrections" is the most recent sequel to the 1999 movie "The Matrix." A tough act to follow for a variety of reasons. Fans have been debating if any of the follow-ups lived up to the original for nearly 20 years.

For context, the original is widely considered one of the greatest Movies ever made – arguably the single greatest science fiction movie of all time. Already shown with awards attention at the time, it could've been even more so by today's standards. The Academy has, over time, become more accepting of science fiction. Add the expansion of its most prestigious category, and "The Matrix" almost certainly would've been a Best Picture nominee.

It's even been specifically recognized by the U.S. government. Tricky shoes to fill. Perhaps part of what's led us to the franchise's current state. Beware of spoilers.

'Resurrections' underwhelms financially, despite positive reviews from audiences and critics

The newest "Matrix" installment has somewhat stumbled out of the gate. At least according to some. Though in actuality, its box office run has been about on pace, if not exceeding, what some pundits predicted.

No, it doesn't look like it'll recoup its production budget in the immediate future – a rather sizeable budget at that, not to mention the undisclosed amount spent on marketing. That's a whole other set of issues. But blame on the movie itself might be misplaced.

Instead, we might need to look more at its parent company, Warner Bros.

The budget is impressive, and the movie team made good use of it. But it was very expected that the movie would be rated R, just as its predecessors were. That wasn't much of a roadblock for the earlier movies to make bookoo bucks. But in the years since the late 1990s and mid-2000s, audience tastes have shifted.

Once, the box office was somewhat evenly dispersed among G, PG, PG-13, and R-rated releases. However, as of late, revenue has shifted heavily in favor of PG-13 films. Not surprising if you think about it. They're most likely to deliver a balance that grown-up and younger viewers alike could enjoy. Meanwhile, younger moviegoers aren't even allowed in an R showing without a parent or guardian.

Many of which aren't comfortable taking their kids to a feature with such mature content.

The impact on box office expectations is immense. Right away, "The Matrix: Resurrections" has been set up for disappointing results, no matter how unintentional. Warner Bros. should know this. It's also not the first time they've gotten in trouble with this.

Some onlookers also question the marketing strategy

It might seem strange to think about it now, given how embedded "The Matrix" has become into society. References to it are so entrenched in the lexicon that people don't even remember where they originated. Churches use the franchise for spiritual teachings. But when it came out, viewers didn't even necessarily know what it was supposed to be about going in.

Trailers and previews for it were intentionally vague. Making references to a so-called matrix without giving up the game as to what it was. Leading to the iconic marketing campaign surrounding the question/slogan "What is the Matrix?" If you haven't already found out, it's a virtual reality created by malevolent machines in a dystopian future. The Matrix is used to subdue humans from uniting uprise against said machines. Who makes use of their confines as biological energy sources.

How strong is the marketing campaign by Warner Bros. for "Resurrections" seems to be in the eye of the beholder. Indicators point toward it being a hefty budget. And they did bring back the famed "What is the Matrix?" angle.

Most people might already know the answer by now, but it's a nice touch.

However, it does seem true that the marketing didn't seem to shift into gear until late in the game. With anticipated major blockbusters, advertising often gradually builds for months. Hype and excitement often grow with it.

But many people probably didn't even realize that "The Matrix: Resurrections" was near until it was downright imminent. The excitement that had been hoped for could be tough to build in just a few weeks.

And there are many, many problems with the release strategy

Generally, studios give November and December release dates to movies they have a lot of confidence in. As money-makers, as award darlings, as both.

So, with a release date just before Christmas, it's a sign that Warner Bros. really believed in the movie.

But December of 2021 will quite possibly be best remembered in cinematic history in a unique way. As the month that "Spider-Man: No Way Home" came out. Now, that "Spidey" would dwarf out the competition as much as it did might not have been so expected. But it was entirely predictable that it would be very tough to get a big foothold in the box office against such competition. Not to mention other formidable projects, such as "Sing 2".

But "Resurrections" still probably would've done well if it weren't for the dreck-filled pitfall given the cheeky codename "Project Popcorn," otherwise known as same-day-release on HBO Max.

Calling the strategy an unmitigated disaster might seem a bit strong. Especially since late 2020 and early 2021, it went relatively well. Keep in mind most major theaters in every state and abroad were closed from COVID.

But after theaters opened back up, the same-day approach started to backfire a lot. Other studios and streaming services found similar results. For one thing, unscrupulous individuals have made mincemeat of the system. Illegal copies of the movie became much more widespread than for a normal theatrical release, indicating Forbes and IndieWire. Even when things are all up-and-up, it becomes problematic.

The anticipated boost in new subscribers for HBO Max didn't really materialize.

Of what there was, many of them didn't become long-term subscribers. And subscribers, new and established alike, could predictably be prone to hosting viewing parties. Untold amounts of people could see the movie without paying for a ticket or a subscription.

Even without other issues, there's also just something else about same-day releases. It can't necessarily be specifically pinpointed, but others have also made a note of it. Movies can feel like less of a big deal when it's done in such a way. It becomes less of an event. The attitude towards it can make for something of a "meh" approach. Potential audience members are less inclined to make a point to see something. Sure, they'll very possibly watch it down the road.

A "get to it when they get to it" type of deal. But not in a timely manner that adds excitement to a new movie, or makes for a good return in investment for a studio.

Okay, yes, though very good, we can also talk about the movie

Prior to "Resurrections," the last theatrical installment of the franchise was "The Matrix: Revolutions." Although not a catastrophically bad conclusion in the "Game of Thrones" vein, it still left a bad taste in the mouth for many. In part, because the main hero and heroine, played by Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, didn't survive it. Instead, sacrifice themselves in the war against the machines.

That information might have been helpful to people going into the new movie without having seen the others.

Though the movie's team might have efforted otherwise, it could be a tough one for a "Matrix" rookie to get into. That can, of course, be a problem.

In the years since "Revolutions", the Wachowski siblings who launched the franchise have dealt many tragedies. But, over time, sentiment began to take root. Their real-life loved ones couldn't be brought back. But the characters that meant so much to them could be.

Now, some people might nitpick at creators who go back to change an unsatisfactory ending. And, no, you'll probably never please the entire audience in one so large as for the "Matrix" franchise. But it should be argued that it's actually rather respectable to acknowledge a possible mistake.

And to try to fix it.

That's the heart of the movie. A touching result for many. Reeves and Moss both seemed genuinely delighted and surprised to revisit the ending. Likely indicating that it hadn't sat well with them either for all those years. Although it does mean the movie has a different feel to it. "Resurrections" is not so much about saving the world from robots. Rather, it's a more intimate story driven by lost loves reuniting and how much strength they give each other. The movie also serves as a bit of a love letter to Moss' character in a big way. Who maybe didn't always get the attention she deserved in some circles.

It makes for many happy, warm, fuzzy feelings for longtime fans.

But some also might be turned off by a different "Matrix" movie than they were accustomed to. To go along with the many that might never have come back after the disappointing "Revolutions" ending.

It's noticeably different in other ways, too. There's a more lighthearted feel. It pokes fun at itself. Unfortunately, though appearing in archival footage, other familiar characters are absent from the movie. Some of which can't be helped, such as with the previous passing of the late great Gloria Foster. Hugo Weaving was also reportedly supposed to return, but scheduling problems prevented it.

At least some of the tonal differences could be attributed to only one of the Wachowskis returning in a major role. Either way, though often positively reviewed, the differences might've been enough to turn off some of the fanbases. A fanbase that might've already been less enthused due to nearly two decades of fermenting sadness.

There's also a side note that there was a boycott of the movie in China. Stemming from Keanu Reeves' political views regarding the country's tensions with China. How much that factored into things is unclear. But the Western Hemisphere's film industry might well need to become less concerned about the Chinese market anyway. The rise of the Chinese movie industry means that its audiences are less dependent on imports from Hollywood.

Discussion about the future of the franchise might be missing the point

Not surprisingly, talks quickly began on whether another "Matrix" movie might be coming down the pike. And how the box office issues with the newest one might affect the possibility.

The general response from cast and crew alike has been they weren't expecting to do another one. But with the caveat that they didn't really expect to come back for this one either. So, they couldn't tell you for sure one way or another. Even the movie itself refers to the fact that fictional stories don't necessarily ever really end. New additions to old stories can be made, even retroactively. So, the door is open.

But if the basic premise behind "Resurrections" is healing, then another movie isn't really the point. The characters got their own version of a happy ending. "Matrix" fans got some solace from it, and, hopefully, the Wachowskis did as well. Financial returns be damned.